Did Barack Obama Transform America?
In the history of the United States transformative presidencies are rare, but did we witness one when Barack Obama was in office?
In my grandmother’s dining room, the clock on the wall above the table was framed by pictures on the left and right of President John F. Kennedy. JFK was with us on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter dinners. He watched us play Monopoly and drink root beer floats in the summer. From the time I was little through my teenage years, President Kennedy was there while I grew up.
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For my grandmother, FDR was just ok. Oh, he was a fine man who saved the country, but he was no JFK. Grandma never explained what it was about President Kennedy that made him her president. She wasn’t Catholic. Maybe it was the fact that he visited our small Western Pennsylvania town as a candidate in 1960. Until Bill Clinton visited to rally for the Affordable Care Act, Kennedy was the only modern president who had paid us a visit. Perhaps, it was the fact that Kennedy’s death was so tragic.
I would like to think somewhere right now in some small town in America, there are children growing up with a picture of former Barack Obama on the dining room wall.
JFK and Barack Obama both may have been transformative presidents. In Obama’s case, his opponents used the notion of him being transformative to fuel a fear that was both a fear of progress and a fear based on an ugly undercurrent of racism.
Some of these same critics like to claim that electing Obama also ended racism, but I would argue that the reactionary election of Donald Trump in 2016 is proof of the flaw in that reasoning.
We’ll begin by looking at what Obama said in 2008.
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